By Wendy Osher
A coalition of advocates for the environment, labor, health and native Hawaiians are gathered on Kāʻanapali Beach near the Westin today to speak out against negotiations involving the Trans-Pacific Partnership . As part of the demonstration, the group is attempting to break the Guinness World Record for beach conch shell blowing this evening, in the hopes of bringing attention to the TPP negotiations that are taking place in Kāʻanapli on Maui this week.
In a Stop TPP press conference held this afternoon, Walter Ritte a long-time cultural advocate from Molokaʻi said the TPP would result in individuals becoming “slaves to corporations.” He said, “We don’t need another layer of bureaucracy controlled by corporations to make us slaves again to all of their projects. We’re sick and tired of that. We have the sugar barons here, the pineapple barons, today we got the GMO barons. They’re all here to make us slaves. This is probably the worst thing that could happen to us.”
“I wanted to join all of you for one loud call for everybody in Hawaiʻi to stop this TPP process that’s going on right now. It’s pilau (stink), pilau, pilau,” said Ritte.
Demonstration organizers say the July 29 rally is timed near the anniversary of the Restoration Day for Hawaiian sovereignty, and seeks to call attention to the alleged harms to indigenous rights, worker abuses, and environmental health “in order to enrich a few major corporations.”
Individuals who spoke on behalf of the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi also raised environmental and labor concerns saying, “We are significantly concerned about the TPP because of the threat it poses to our natural environment; but we also recognize that it has over arching implications for our workers’ rights. We have learned since NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was adopted that we have more unemployment and a larger trade deficit. We know that there’s been no enforcement of any of the provisions of the NAFTA agreement, and labor leaders in DC have described the TPP as NAFTA on steroids. If NAFTA is awful, that a bigger NAFTA is not better.”
Kauaʻi Council Member Gary Hooser, who served under former Governor Neil Abercrombie as his director of Environmental Quality Control said, “I know how laws are made. Laws should be made in the communities where the people live. That’s who should make the laws.”
He noted that on Kauaʻi we’re groups are in lawsuits fighting the four largest chemical companies in the world. He also addressed the GMO battle currently taking place on Maui where voters passed a ballot initiative to place a moratorium on genetically modified crops. “We don’t need TPP telling the people of Maui how to regulate pesticides (and) crops, and experimental organisms in their community,” said Hooser. “We do not need the Trans Pacific Partnership. We need local communities to make local laws based on local standards,” he said.
The United States is hosting a meeting of the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP Trade Ministers on Maui from July 28-31, preceded by a meeting of TPP Chief Negotiators from July 24-27.
In an earlier announcement, Trinette Furtado, one of the event organizers said, “This event calls attention to all struggles against entitled behavior across the globe. We send this kāhea of the pū out past this hotel and the secret TPP negotiations, and out into the ocean, through the mountains, around the world. People are awakening, discovering their power. They are hungry to effect a positive change in the world,” said Furtado.
The TPP is a trade pact negotiated between 12 nations around the Pacific Rim and 600 corporations. The 12 countries include: the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada, and Mexico. The list of corporations include: Walmart, Monsanto, Pfizer, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Dow Chemical.
According to the Office of the US Trade Representative website, representatives claim the TTP would benefit Hawaiʻi’s labor force, sustain hundreds of Hawaiʻi businesses, benefit small and medium-sized firms and expand market access to the islands.
Human rights and environmental watchdogs protest the trade deal’s provisions saying they allow corporations to sue governments over loss of expected profit. Protestors say they stand for the protection of public health laws, safeguards against pollution, labor rights, patent policies that insure affordable medicine, and other public interest policies.
The organizations participating in the demonstration in opposition to the TPP include: Kākoʻo Haleakalā; AiKea; Hawaiʻi SEED; Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A); Babes Against Biotech; UNITE HERE! Local 5; Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery ; ʻOhana o Kauaʻi; KAHEA: Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance; Occupy Wall Street Maui; Sierra Club; Public Citizen; Flush the TPP; Friends of the Earth; Popular Resistance; MoveOn; CREDO; and SumOfUs.
***Check back for additional images.